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Schumer urges Canada to move train inspections to Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The Niagara Falls Amtrak station opened in 2016 with space for Canadian customs officials to preclear passengers entering Canada.

The Canadians, however, still do not use that space, preferring to keep their customs inspectors in Niagara Falls, Ont.

Monday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer called on the Canadian government to change that.

It could help the future Niagara Falls economy, or at least make the railroad experience more pleasant for travelers.

"When you're coming from Niagara Falls and have to go across to Canada, you have to get off at a place that has no cover and no real facilities, and the process is encumbering and long," Schumer said. "It makes the trip much less pleasant. It makes many people, whether they're on the American side or the Canadian side, not want to do the trip."

"This next step is great for economic development, not to mention expanding our leisure and tourism industry," Niagara Falls Mayor Robert M. Restaino said of Schumer's request.

The Niagara Falls station is about the length of four football fields from the Niagara Falls, Ont., station, according to Schumer. The Niagara River Gorge lies in between.

The nations signed an agreement allowing preclearance last year, but it hasn't been carried out. Schumer blamed "bureaucratic inertia" in Canada.

The Canada Border Services Agency responded to Schumer's comments in an email to The News.

"Canada does not currently have any preclearance operations in the United States," according to the agency's statement. "However, Canada is exploring the potential for Canadian preclearance operations in both the traveler and commercial streams. Unfortunately, we cannot speak to the specific timelines or locations at this time."

"What's our goal?" Schumer asked. "Our goal is to have regular, dynamic commuter rail service between Western New York and the Toronto metropolitan area."

At present, it's not doable. Amtrak's Maple Leaf train leaves Buffalo's Exchange Street station daily at 3:14 p.m., reaches Niagara Falls at 4:26 p.m. and arrives in Toronto at 7:41 p.m.

The timetable includes a wait of one hour and 12 minutes in Niagara Falls, Ont., for customs inspection.

The wait for inspection entering the U.S. is even longer. The timetable for the Toronto-to-New York run includes a stop of one hour and 43 minutes in Niagara Falls.

During Amtrak's 2019 fiscal year, an average of 95 people per day either boarded or exited Amtrak trains in Niagara Falls. In Niagara Falls, Ont., an average of 34 people per day boarded or exited the Maple Leaf.

Amtrak service at new Niagara Falls station to debut on Tuesday

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